Debbie Ray Fritson

My final, a least for now, Featured Friend Friday focuses on Debbie Fritson. Try saying that fast four or five times. 🙂

Eight years ago, my oldest, Melody, met a young man at a wedding. After going to Sonic for slushies and talking on the phone a few times, she asked me if I knew Debbie Ray. How surprised and pleased I was that Melody seemed to be very interested in my middle-school friend’s son, Tim. Debbie and I had not kept up over the years but had briefly reconnected a few years prior to Melody’s query. Debbie was the administrative assistant at Maplewood Elementary for many years. I went there one day as a sub.

Debbie and I met at Avondale United Methodist Church. My memories are hazy of us at church together. But what I remember is how friendly she was to me and how nice her parents were. She invited me to her home in Gracemor a number of times. Mrs. Ray wore lots of make-up and she struck me as beautiful and sophisticated and fashion conscious. The clearest memory I have of Debbie’s dad is smelling his pipe and watching him comb his short, thick spiked hair with a handheld scalp massager type comb that he stored above his car visor. (I don’t know if Tim remembers his grandfather but he has worn his hair exactly like his grandpa ever since I have known him.) Debbie’s parents were a handsome couple that I held in high regard.

I fondly remember Debbie had a boy-girl party just for fun, not for a birthday. It was a new concept for me. I was invited and was a little intimidated with a room full of mostly Maple Parkers. I distinctly remember listening to “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson Five and learning those who went to the Mormon Church did not drink caffeine. Funny that we can’t recall important details at times but sometimes the trivial is retained.

Debbie is always cheerful, very welcoming and encouraging. She is interested in others and can easily engage in conversation. She is a strong woman with a definite opinion of her own coupled with a high intellect. She is likely one of the smartest people in the room at any given time. Debbie is a reader and game player and keeps abreast of what is going on in the world. She has a unique voice that you might say is raspy and high which seems like a dichotomy but I think accurate. I can just imagine that all the elementary kids at Maplewood felt cared about and safe with “Mrs. Debbie”. And as most everyone knows, Debbie, her husband, Rod and daughter, Sarah are Disney aficionados.

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Debbie knows God and has done an excellent job raising my daughter’s husband. She has loved him well. There is no familial term for the relationship between my son-in-law’s mother and me so I like to call Debbie my sister-in-love.

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So disappointed that I can’t find the one picture I have of Debbie and I together from middle school.  😦

 

 

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Karole Morehead

Karole grew up in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. Her mama was a cheerleading instructor so guess what Karole became? You’re right. She came to UMKC on a cheerleading scholarship. After graduation she stayed in Kansas City working and eventually meeting and falling in love with Tony. Shortly after they married, her mama passed away.

Anyone who knows Karole senses her great admiration for her mother. She wonders how her mom was able to do all that she did- work, be immersed in her three children’s activities, coach cheerleading and support a husband who had some difficult years. Her mama was a charismatic Catholic who knew the Lord Jesus. She laughs now that she thinks her mom was really a closet Baptist.

Karole is unpretentious and is loving and accepting of everyone she meets. We first met Tony and Karole when they came to our church. They were hoping to kind of hide out in a large group that turned out to be a small group. It’s been an absolute joy watching them grow in their relationship with the Lord. It was clear that God was calling Karole to head up our community group and she has taken the ball and run well with it.

Karole chose to stay home with her three kids. Now, after they are all in school, she still works part time so she can be a supportive PTA mom. She sometimes gets a little down on herself for impatience and for unfinished projects. (She reminds me a lot of me.) But I hope she has caught a glimpse of the amazing mom that she is. Her children are confident and caring and delightful. I imagine they will all grow up and one day wonder how their mama did it all. And maybe even unbeknownst to her, Karole is living out her legacy and is more like her mama than she ever hoped or dreamed.

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Whitney Custer

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Whitney is 28. She has not had an easy life. Due to health issues and some wrong choices, she did not finish high school. She has four absolutely beautiful children and is a good mama! Immersing herself in Spanish, she became fluent. Most recently, she has successfully completed college courses with honors and has her eye on a degree in computer science. I have appreciated Whitney stopping by over the years (except that one middle-of-the-night visit :-)) to fill me in on what was new.

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There are some qualities about Whitney that I greatly admire and want to share. I first saw those years ago. For a while when she and my children were elementary age, Whitney would come by before school. One brisk morning, I got out the glove container. The gloves were a mess with few, if any matches. I distinctly remember Whitney said with genuine optimism, “That’s OK! They can wear mix and match.” That was before mismatched socks were in and my kids would probably rather have cold hands than go for the different gloves option. But not Whitney. I suddenly appreciated and admired her resourcefulness and ability to make lemonade out of lemons. She is positive and can look beyond a difficult circumstance and continue to press on to make it better. She has tenacity even when the going gets rough. She wants to keep improving. Also, I realized she was extending grace to me with her comment about the gloves… Accepting me and the situation just as it was, not fault finding. I think she accepts people unconditionally. I appreciate these things and more about my young friend.

Hats off to you, Whitney. You are “strong and courageous…..for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

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Alice (Alias)

Alice grew up in rural, middle America. Her parents, honorable people, were Christians and attended church regularly. But fear of being tainted by the world seemed to be the overriding factor in the family functioning. An older brother being bullied caused the family to withdraw even more. The children did not participate in school activities. Once Alice wanted to try out for a school play with her teachers’ encouragement. But it was too much for her parents and they would not consent.

Her parents attended her high school graduation. Alice listened to her classmates’ plans of going to parties afterward. For her, she clutched the cards she received and retreated to her room. Lying on her bed, she read her well-wishes and dreamed of her future. And as so often as she did, Alice talked to Jesus.

In times of loneliness, Alice said she would open her Bible or just converse with the Lord. He truly became her best friend. With such excessive control, I am amazed and in awe that Alice did not rebel.  So many ways she could have turned, I so admire Alice that she chose to turn to Jesus. Most kids wouldn’t. Most kids don’t.

Alice went on to college, got out on her own, married a godly man and has three beautiful children. She is a strong woman. When you hear her pray, you can hear a lifetime of intimate conversations with the Lord. She knows Him well.

 

I thought of Alice when I first planned to do Featured Friend Friday (FFF). As I started writing about her, I realized I could not give all these details on Facebook especially without her permission. So I decided to use an alias. This writing is primarily from one conversation with Alice. I tried to record it to the best of my recollection. I still remember where we were as she so sweetly shared.

Susan Vernon Greene

When we were in elementary school, my sister and I subscribed to Barbie Magazine. Yes, it was published by Mattel about Barbie dolls. One section featured girls from across the country who wanted to have pen-pals. I remember getting a map out and deciding Susan in Winston-Salem, North Carolina would be a good person to choose. I and probably hundreds of others wrote to her. I don’t know how she decided, but she wrote back to me and several others. Now, I know it was God wanting to bless me. Susan was in 5th grade and I was in 4th.

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We corresponded frequently. I was usually the slacker/procrastinator but if I waited too long, she would write another letter. I felt like I knew her very well and as friends should, we liked each other a lot. In August of 1977, I went to visit her. I remember the time exactly because that’s where I was when Elvis died. I remember her parents, who were the sweetest folks, shared something with his passing that I still remember. “Fame and fortune does not bring happiness.” Susan was blessed to have such caring and contented parents.

Susan is multitalented, smart and ambitious. She is the reason that I ever took scuba diving lessons years ago. She has dived all over the Caribbean. I was amazed that she got her ham radio license as a fairly young gal. She was also very crafty. She made the lap top study board pictured below that I and all of my children have used. After getting a nursing degree, she went back to school a number of years later and became a nurse anesthetist.

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Susan married a little later in life and settled in Fort Myers. After having a daughter, they added to their family through adoption. Overwhelmed with the busyness of all the children I was the worst corresponder during those years. But now we have Facebook.

Susan is absolutely the nicest person you would ever hope to meet. She is an excellent mama and loves the Lord. Facebook friends, meet my friend, Susan…

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Martha Ward Long Merilatt

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Martha and I have been friends since we were 4 years old when her family moved into the big red house up the street.

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Being friends or just knowing someone for 54 years is special, in deed. Much shared history. No one else except her brothers would have the same memories of the Spain’s, the Kern’s, the treehouse her brother’s built, sled riding down the hill and warming up by the bond fire, “ice skating” on the pond in the woods, playing kick ball, riding bikes, felt board Bible stories at her house and picking off the “green vines” on the tree where we both got poison ivy. We walked to elementary school together every day. I never learned to be a clock watcher because I waited for Martha to come down the street and joined her.

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Martha was instrumental in answering many of my questions about God growing up. Her family, the Ward’s, was the first one I ever knew who wanted to live every day for the Lord. Church was the cornerstone of their activities.

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I must say that I felt kinda’ sorry for her that her family chose not to have a TV and she missed out on the important things in life like Lassie and Leave It to Beaver. 🙂 But Martha has more than made up for it by living an adventurous adult life. She has lived in Alaska, Philadelphia, Maryland and Israel three times. She moved to Israel the first time with enthusiasm when her youngest, was only a few months old and ended up disliking her circumstance. How difficult it must have been to move there with 5 young children. She was an excellent letter writer and I still remember the description of her tiled condo. I remember her coming to the conclusion that the people there were “rude, crude and have B.O.” 🙂 A lesson she learned was that difficult situations don’t disappear but you learn to adjust to them. By the time Martha and Brian, her husband, moved back to Israel for the third time, she loved the experience and her high-rise apartment that looked out over Tel Aviv. Her emails were so descriptive I left like I lived there, too. I’m sure a fond memory for the Marines at the American Embassy there was the lady who always baked cinnamon rolls for them.

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I rejoiced with Martha when she married Brian and gave birth to her 5 children. I also mourned with her at the loss of Brian to cancer several years ago. She moved from Maryland to Idaho to be near her 4 grandchildren and eventually signed up for eharmony.

In October she told me of an interesting contact she had. This contact, Randy, recorded on his profile a favorite author of his, a Hebrew scholar who also happened to be a favorite of Brian’s. Martha mentioned to Randy that she was surprised to see Robert Alter on someone’s reading list. Randy, a widower, responded that he was surprised that someone would recognize Robert Alter. And thus their relationship began.

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Terry and I just returned from Seattle for their wedding. There is no doubt that God brought them together. They are honeymooning now in New Zealand. Facebook friends, my friend, Martha…..

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The End

IMG_5240In an article in the Kansas City Star in May, students at the KC Art Institute were given a selfie project. One student “was inspired by L.A. skateboarder Steve Berra’s ‘366 Days of Me’ photo project.” 366 Days of Me?!?! That did not sound very healthy for anyone in our budding narcissistic society. I felt like the Lord spoke to me right then that when cancer treatment was over, the blog was finished. That’s why this is the end. But, there were a few more things I wanted to share:

Hands down, the biggest take-away from breast cancer is how amazing God’s people are!!! I have felt so encouraged and supported. The compassion people have for others is amazing.

I have been blown away by how people have prayed for me. It’s hard for me to pray consistently. My friend, Martha told me it takes her about an hour to go through her prayer cards every night. Wow! Sometimes I talk to the Lord throughout the day but a stretch of time where I’m consistently lifting people up to the Lord- Improvement Needed. (Who remembers the old grading system E,S,M,I,F?)

Because of comments about the blog, in particular from Janet, Denise, Joyce and Maggie, unbeknownst to them, I was challenged to examine my own emotions. I already have begun studying feelings and I want to better understand these God given emotions at greater depth. I plan to look at Psalms, in particular, and categorize various feelings expressed, see how the psalmist handled them and what God wants us to do with our feelings.

The first day I did not wear my wig to work (Oct 1st), a coworker felt how soft my hair was and said, “I just want to smell it and kiss it.” I told her that I had not used Johnson’s baby shampoo but she was welcome to take a whiff. 🙂 It is still so soft but my towel is now pretty wet after drying it from the shower.

Nipples can burn, blister and peel several times and still not fall off. Ouch! I had probably 20 treatments before I noticed much of anything. But the burning continued after treatment was over. Almost healed up now.

The Royals were very special to me this year. I realized when I was officially diagnosed (March 2oth), that my treatment would last about as long as their season. They ended on November 1st and I ended on Nov. 2nd. Watched most every game.

Statistics show that 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer. As a friend, Michelle brought to my attention early on, some women who have read this blog will develop the disease. My advice to you: Do not fear! Breast cancer or cancer in general is not a for sure death sentence. There is so much hope.

I do not want cancer again but I know I could deal with it. It’s kind of like child birth. The painful memories begin to fade.

Even before cancer, I did not look at the cup as half empty or half full. I look at it like I have just what I need. That’s really how I see life. Hopefully that is a reflection of the Lord living in me. But also, I think I may have the gift of “happy”- not a spiritual gift but I suppose you could say it is a combination of joy and hope and thankfulness intertwined with the personality God gave me.

Praise God, I can sing along with Matt Maher: “My God, from the flood and from the fire, you brought me out. I am alive. With a faith just like a child, l’m not afraid, I’m running wild. For everything that will be done, I am Yours and You are my Deliverer.” Thank you for delivering me from cancer, Lord!

I so admire anyone writing a blog or writing anything. It’s hard work. I took a creative writing class on-line this summer. The teacher was from San Diego and there were over 100 people from all over the world, many who were wanting to be published. I signed up through a local adult education site and would have thought I got put in the wrong group if it had not been for the high schooler whose bio said she was wanting to improve her English skills. I wondered if she was as intimidated as I. Amazed at the talent, particularly those who wrote fiction. I plan to keep on writing what the Lord shows me in my time with Him.

Thank you for not judging all my grammatical mistakes, particularly incite for insight and affect for effect, etc.

9-29-15 Lab work – Needle 53. Not the last one in the months and years to come but the last one I keep track of.

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a denial stage of having cancer. It’s like I don’t feel like it ever happened. Or I don’t know, maybe I’m just ready to move on.

For anyone who is looking for something in life that you haven’t found yet, I highly recommend Jesus. You can get to know Him in Scripture. He talks to me through the Bible and in a still small voice. I can’t imagine going through cancer or anything in life without Him.

I wanted to end with this: After surgery and the steri strips on my breast were gone, as I stood in front of the mirror examining the “damage,” I noticed the incision was an arc. It both tickled me and touched my heart when I realized my breast was smiling at me.

Thank you for reading!

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All the kids came to my last treatment and then we clebrated at Bravo.

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The folks at the KU Green Hills site gave my family a little tour. This is the view I had when having radiation treatment.

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